Okay so I left off talking about how I had planned to stay until Tuesday to get a ride 40 miles outside of Brawley. This would save me the two-three day journey through the desert where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to carry enough water. I spent the next 4 days befriending all the regular visitors, swimming in the canal, feeding the ducks and turtles, meeting other cyclists passing through and catching on my reading!
There was this one dog there who had a very special trick he’d do every evening. If you gave him a dollar he would take the dollar into the bait shop where he’d trade it in for a cheese stick. He would then bring the cheese stick to you and you got to feed it to him. I could not get enough of this haha. He’d get allllll worked up and excited if he even saw you take out a dollar and then he’d bark at you until you gave him the dollar. At one point during the week something horrible happened. So okay, you remember the photo of my tent set up. I’m on a dock. One day I’m walking back to my tent with my ipod and I somehow managed to trip on the one bench on the dock. I go flying off the dock into the water and as I’m falling the first thought in my head is ”oh shit my ipod”. I land hard, sink straight to the three feet of mush at the bottom. I surface with a gasp and immediately I toss my ipod up into my tent. I then have to swim around trying to figure out how the fuck I’m getting out of this pond. The edges of the pond are littered with large fallen sticks and just walking out is literally not an option. I’m dragging myself around the edge of the dock trying not to think about what little creatures are living there. I got as shallow as I dared and then had to pull myself up onto the dock (not an easy task when wearing a flowing dress), and roll across the dock to get up. First priority was to get my ipod into some rice. I immediately took it out of it’s case and put it into some rice. It took about 15 minutes for me to realize that MY GLASSES WHERE GONE. GONE. MY NEW BEAUTIFUL GLASSES THAT I LOVE. I went back to the pond and dragged a net through the area where I fell over and over and over. Unfortunately it’s mostly muck at the bottom so the glasses were just totally gone. On top of all that the wind had been blowing winds between 40 and 60 mph for the past three days and that continued another two days so by the time the wind died down who knows where my glasses where. I was and still am, devastated. So the morning dawns when I’m supposed to leave. Wayne and three of his friends where going to Mexico for the day. We loaded up Evelyn and headed out. About halfway there Wayne asks me when exactly I need to be at my mother’s house (May 20th..ish). At this point that’s still like 2 and a half weeks away and I’m only about a week’s journey away. Here’s how that conversation went: Wayne: Well, you know you don’t HAVE to leave just yet, you could stay another week Me: Hmm….really?! Wayne: Yeah definitely! Do you want to just stay? Me: Yeah, I’d love that! Wayne: Do you want to just go down to Mexico with us? Do you have a passport? Me: Yes! That’s sounds great! So I went to Mexico! We went to the dentist, walked around and then went down to the bar and had a couple beers before heading back!
We returned to Blythe much to the surprise of the people still at the bait shop who all thought I was leaving that day. I unpacked and re-set up my tent. The rest of the week passed pretty much the same, and just as entertainingly, as the first few days had. That Saturday I was combing through Facebook when I saw that my cousin David had posted that he’s driving to L.A. I knew he lived in L.A. but didn’t think he’d be driving through. I dismissed it thinking he’d likely be there soon and wouldn’t be near me. A few hours later I saw that he had a posted a photo of him standing next to a saguaro cactus. I knew he had to be coming through from Phoenix area so I sent him a facebook message asking him if he would be going anywhere near Blythe. David messaged me back saying they were about 30 minutes away from Blythe!! I couldn’t believe it! I hadn’t seen David or my Aunt Mary in years and it was just such perfect timing! So anyway, they drove through and we had some juice together and chatted for about half an hour which was really really nice! Eventually they had to be on their way since they needed to still get to LA so off they went!
The following day Trish, John, Destiny and Scruffy were coming to visit me all the way from Phoenix! They arrived around 11:30 or noon. I showed them around where I had been staying in Blythe and then we headed off to KMart because I had a flat tire and needed to buy a tube. Destiny, Trish and I wandered around the Kmart for about half an hour browsing, I bought the only tube they had in my size and then we where off! We went for lunch at a place that everyone had been telling me was delicious and THEY. WERE. SO. RIGHT. It was sooooo good! I had nachos with lettuce, tomaaato, sour creaaam, oniooons, guacamooole etc on top and it was just amazing. After lunch we heading over to this little beach on the Colorado River. John and Scruffy (remember Scruffy?) decided to walk around and explore, Trish wanted to use the pool at the park we were at, and Destiny and I decided to brave the current of the Colorado River. Terrifying by the way. Now the way this park was set up was that there were two areas to enter the water. There was the beach entrance to swim in, and the marina entrance to have your boat in. Unfortunately for us there were like 5 other families there (the beach entrance) and they ALL had a BOAT anchored right near the shore. So there wasn’t really too much room for us to swim that wasn’t right on the edge where the drop off into the strong current was. As I’m sure you can imagine this involved lots of screaming and panic while the boat-owners stared on in drunken fascination.
Eventually we went back to the bait shop where I had been camping. Destiny and I swam in the canal there which was much more fun and less scary. Afterwards they had to leave because they were all driving alllll the way back to Phoenix!! We said our goodbyes and hugged and off the drove.
The next day I was told that I no longer had a ride half way as I had thought due to a change of plans. I immediately started packing my belongings up and planning to depart the following day. I called my host in Palo Alto, about 20 miles away and was ready to go. The next morning I left bright and early and it was already ROASTING out. After my debacle previously practically passing out at a gas station I’ve been extra vigilant of temperature highs for the day.
So off I rolled and let me tell you, it was the BEST. The entire day was flat, there was a nice breeze and I wasn’t dying of heat. I got to Palo Alto without any issues. It was field upon field upon field of different crops. What I really loved was at the end of the rows was a honeybee hive, so the bees could directly be around for pollination etc . It was very cute.
I rolled up to the post office where my host worked and she gave me directions and a key to her house. I was to continue on down the highway and then turn onto a dirt road. This dirt road turned out to be sand and hard core gravel. I biked about a mile slipping and sliding the whole way, as it was getting hotter and hotter and nothing around me but dryness and desert area. All of my water was gone except one bottle which was HOT. My mouth was so so dry and I was getting dizzy. I passed a few houses on this VERY remote little road but couldn’t find her house. I finally managed to get a signal on my GPS and discovered I’ve gone 3/4 of a mile TOO FAR. So I sadly roll/slide/shuffled my bike back through the sand and made my way to her home where I immediately drenched my head in water. I get inside and just sit down to recover. Later, once my host returned home we went swimming in the river where it was nice and cool. She made a delicious dinner and I went to sleep.
The following morning I was on the road bright and early for what I knew would be a difficult day. The plan was that I would bike 40 miles into the desert, The Imperial Sand Dunes, where they film movies like The Mummy and Star Wars. It’s the largest stretch of Sand Dunes in California and let me tell you it is sandy. I would camp by one little store at an intersection/town called Glamis. I needed to conserve my water in the event that the store was not open and I wouldn’t be able to buy any water from them. Needless to say I was very very nervous. This was the big stretch that I had been dreading since Texas. As a slow biker this was the most treacherous stretch of road, with the most danger, not from animals but just nature in it’s extremity. Here’s an idea:
I completely soaked my shirt in cold water before heading out and not twenty minutes later it was totally dry and I was sweating. The road that I was riding on had absolutely no shoulder at all and in many parts would drop off into horrible little cliffs that I would never survive if I fell on my bike. Many portions were so steep that I had to walk my bike and hope that I didn’t get hit by a truck coming over the hill a high speed in the middle of the road, since it was a two lane ”highway”. Finally around 2pm I took off my helmet. I never EVER take off my helmet but I couldn’t even breath I was so hot. Just having my helmet off cooled me down several degrees and I could keep going. I didn’t even have any air to hum along to my music, which normally is what keeps me going. Every few yards I would have to stop and pour water on myself.
It was at one of these points where I had stopped, I had my eyes closed and I was pouring water on my face. I opened my eyes and a man was standing in front of me. I screamed so loudly that he looked shocked himself. I took off my headphones, realized he was a border patrol officer or whatever they’re called and apologized for screaming. I then couldn’t stop giggling because of the look on his face when I screamed. Here’s how the conversation went:
BP: What are you doing???
BP: But like what are you doing out HERE biking?
Me: Biking to Glamis, camping then continuing on to Brawley.
BP: Glamis is another 20 minutes from here, I’m going in to Brawley right now, would you like a ride?
I pondered this thought for a few seconds weighing whether I wanted to stick it out and try on my own or accept this ride. I went with the ride because I was dying and I had already used half my water. He asked me for my ID and if I had any weapons. I had to give him my knife and Halt! spray before he let me get into the vehicle (after we loaded up my bike). And off we went. He ended up being very funny and great company. Apparently as he was walking up to me he was calling out to me and when I didn’t answer he thought ”oh great, a crazy person in the desert” and then on top of it screamed in his face. I started laughing all over again.
Eventually we got to Brawley, he dropped me off and I called my host. He was very gracious in my short notice, having been expecting me days afterward. I rode my bike to his house where I was introduced to his wife and son and dogs. It was a Friday. The following day he was showing some of his photography at an arts festival up in Idyllwild, CA (I had never heard of it). I planned to depart the next morning but in the morning when I was talking to his son I decided I’d stay for the weekend and leave Monday. We drove up to the art festival and it was SO INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL. The whole way up the mountains was incredible. I got to see mountains, lakes and forests.
Then when we actually GOT to Idyllwild it was ADORABLE!! It was such a little artsy town, full of art shops, book stores, psychics and best of all THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL. Do you remember my entry where I talk about Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild and how she inspired me by walking the Pacific Crest Trail? Well Idyllwild is one of the stops on the PCT!! I was SO excited to see the trail walkers and the signs welcoming them. I could only imagine the journeys they were on to walk the PCT.
And of course, there were puppies to be loved upon and photographed. 😉
As planned, I departed on Monday heading for Julian as my next host stop. The plan was to bike to a Ranger Station on the edge of the Anza Borrego State Park/Desert. I didn’t really realize the extent of the word ”DESERT” just yet but I’ll get to that later. There was supposed to be a little store just before that where I could buy some more food and more water if I needed it. Then I would bike the 20 or so miles up to Julian. I say up because Julian is on a mountaintop. A mountaintop that I had been warned about by several other bikes. Apparently it’s like straight up winding road for 20 solid miles. I figured if I got into trouble I could just camp. (Big mistake thinking that).
So off I traipsed. The first part of the day wasn’t bad! It was nice, flat land no hills, no difficulty. I passed the infamous Salton Sea which I had been really excited to swim in until I learned that it’s totally toxic and wildlife dies in it. I urge you to go to this website and find out more about it because it’s horrified environmentally and a sad/scary situation. http://saltonseamuseum.org/salton_sea_history.html So I just biked right past it.
I had to go through a border patrol stop where I chatted with the guards and we looked over my map. He was from Illinois (that’s unrelated to anything) and told me that Ocotillo Wells (my store stop) wasn’t too far, about ten miles away. So on my way there the sand is blowing all over the place. Nothing to see but sand for miles around. Low traction and wind. To add to this an enormous black bug decided to dive bomb me REPEATEDLY over a one mile distance. I thought I was going to lose my mind every time I watched him circle me and then come diving down. It was a HUGE bug and I have no idea what kind. Eventually he lost interested, thank fuck, because I don’t know what I would have done if all day I had to dodge him AND bike through sand. This was what they meant when they talked about the desert. As I got closer to the Anza Borrego Desert little shrubby bushes started popping up but it was nothing but loneliness all around. I was so hungry and so thirsty but I didn’t dare eat into my last Clif bar just yet, I knew I would need something for dinner AND breakfast the next morning.
I finally reached my destination store to restock on food!! ….And it was closed down. Not just closed but closed DOWN. NOTHING THERE. I started to panic. I had one Clif bar left. ONE CLIF BAR. It had never even OCCURRED to be that this little shop would be closed!! I called my sister, debating whether I should camp there or keep going. Since it was only about 11am I decided I would keep going because the alternative was to roast in the desert. And when I say desert allow me to elaborate. Emptiness and silence. Utter silence. Every mile there was an emergency telephone I assume for stragglers. It was intense. I stopped for a break in the shade of a sign stating I was officially entering the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Thank you, I’ve realized this.
Purely by accident did I happen upon the Ranger Station I was looking for. I assumed the sign ”Ranger Station Road” meant what you think it means and decided to risk going down this random ass road. About half a mile down the gravel road a large Ranger Station opened up. I went inside the museum (yes, the museum in the middle of the desert) and asked the Ranger if I could please please pretty please camp there that night. He said I was welcome to of course camp wherever I wanted to. I went out and set up my tent in the shade of a little pavilion picnic bench area and then went back inside and called my hosts from Julian to let then know what was going on with my food situation. Ben told me the next day he could meet me at the bottom of the mountain, about ten miles from where I was camped. This sounded ideal and I felt much better having a plan. Surely I would have enough fuel to go ten miles.
That night I saw my first coyote!! I was sitting outside my tent on a block of cement pouring water on my head to cool down and I see a movement out of the corner of my eye. It’s a cute coyote!! He didn’t even see me at first until I clapped my hands for him to shoo and then he scampered away right away! Once the sun sank down things cooled off to a comfortable temperature. I went into my tent and analyzed my food. I ate half the clif bar because I was STARVING and saved the other half for breakfast.
The next morning I woke up bright and early and planned to leave around 9 am. I was meeting Ben at a campground at 11am so I gave myself 2 hours for ten miles, MORE than enough time! I got up, ate my half of a Clif bar and hit the damn road. Before I knew it the time was already 10:45 and I had only gone about 7 miles. I was SO exhausted from not eating a good breakfast and having no energy to pedal, plus hills and winding around were starting leading to the mountain. I could SEE the campground way waaay in the distance but it was so far. Because it was in the middle of freaking nowhere there wasn’t any cell reception to contact Ben so I pedaled on slowly. Someone actually stopped their car and asked me for directions and I was like are you out of your damn mind? Why would I know where shit is when I’m on A BIKE in the desert? Hungriness makes me a grouch, I can’t lie. Around 11:30 a white truck pulls up to me and Ben leans out asking if I’m Maria. We load up and I collapse in the truck. I wouldn’t have made it up the mountain that’s for damn sure. It was incredibly steep and long and winding with absolutely NOwhere that I could have pulled over to camp like I had planned.
Ben lives with his girlfriend Delaney working at a retreat center that is INCREDIBLY beautiful.
They were so so so nice and filled me up with so much delicious organic food, much of it locally grown. I was sleeping in a yurt with a bathroom and shower in it along with beds. It was just so beautiful and peaceful. AND NICE AND COOL because we were on top of a mountain!! The following morning I woke up early and got out just in time to see a few deer grazing outside!
Everyone at the retreat center was beyond friendly and curious about my trip. They had great stories to tell and advice to give. Ben and Delaney especially were very encouraging to me. I was stalling for time still because my mom and her husband wouldn’t get to their house in California until the end of May and I still had about a week to go so I was staying with Ben and Delaney for a couple of days. The next day I decided to go right into the town of Julian and explore. It very cute and quaint with little shops and restaraunts. I also ate the famous Julian Pie which everyone along my way had told me to eat and it was delicious. I met a few dogs (German Shepherds!).
….To be continued…